ROME, Italy – The UK-based Online Betting Guide (OLBG) has started issuing odds for the next papal conclave, favoring Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle to succeed Pope Francis when the moment comes.
The OLBG puts Cardinal Tagle’s odds at 5 to 1, making him the current favorite for the post, but he is closely followed by Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, who heads the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Turkson’s odds currently stand at 6-1, a position shared by 80-year-old Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola. Two Americans are among the OLBG’s top ten candidates for the papacy, with Cardinal Raymond Burke’s odds at 8-to-1 and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s odds at 12-to-1, winning sixth and eighth, respectively.
Francis began using a wheelchair regularly in May because of acute knee pain, but serious speculation about his successor began in early June when the Vatican announced the cancellation of the 85-year-old Pope’s July trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
The restriction of travel due to health reasons raised suspicions that the pope could consider resigning from the papacy in 2013, like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
In late May, the pope also announced the appointment of 21 new cardinals, 16 of whom are under 80, making them eligible voters for the next papal conclave. The consistory that will elevate these bishops to the rank of cardinal is scheduled for Saturday, August 27th.
Francis further fueled rumors of a possible resignation when he revealed plans to visit the Italian city of Aquila the day after the consistory, along with a stop at the tomb of Pope Celestine V, who is known to have resigned from the papacy in 1294, the last pope Do this before Benedict XVI.
Benedict also visited Celestine’s grave in 2009, a few years before his own retirement.
Earlier this week, however, Pope Francis appeared to quash rumors of an impending resignation at a meeting with a delegation of Brazilian bishops.
During that meeting, the Pope told visiting Archbishop Roque Paloschi that, despite the many challenges related to his deteriorating health, resigning from the papacy “didn’t cross his mind” and insisted he wanted to live out his mission as long as as God allow him.
In recent weeks, during his Wednesday general audiences, Francis has offered a series of reflections on old age, in which he underscored the value of aging and the important contribution older people make to society in general.